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Background: Inequalities of service use across ethnic groups are important to policy makers, service providers and service users. Aims: To identify ethnic variations in pathways to specialist mental health care, continuity of contact, voluntary and compulsory psychiatric in-patient admissions; to assess the methodological strength of the findings. Method: A systematic review of all quantitative studies comparing use of mental health services by more than one ethnic group in the UK. Narrative analysis supplemented by meta-analysis, where appropriate. Results: Most studies compared Black and White patients, finding higher rates of in-patient admission among Black patients. The pooled odds ratio for compulsory admission, Black patients compared with White patients, was 4.31 (95% CI 3.33-5.58). Black patients had more complex pathways to specialist care, with some evidence of ethnic variations in primary care assessments. Conclusions: There is strong evidence of variation between ethnic groups for voluntary and compulsory admissions, and some evidence of variation in pathways to specialist care.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Psychiatry

Publication Date





105 - 116